Gasa Dzongkhag leading the way in organic crop production

The first ever registered farmers group Rangshin Sonam Detshen from Khatoed Geog, Gasa was certified as an organic group on 10 October 2016 by the Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) in accordance with the Bhutan Organic Certification System (BOCS) Guidelines, 2013. The group owns approximately 25 acres of farm land.

The 50 member group produced 25MT of organic potatoes under strict supervision of the Dzongkhag Agriculture Sector, National Organic Program and BAFRA. However, delay in obtaining organic certification compelled some members to sell their produce at the farm gate price of Nu. 25 and about 10 MTs were retained as a seed potato.

In an effort to promote domestic market for the organic produce, a promotional shipment was attempted. The Dzongkhag Administration, Gasa in close collaboration with the Department of Agricultural Marketing and Cooperatives (DAMC), and Centenary Farmers’ Market (CFM) management, brought 1735 Kgs of organic potatoes to the CFM on November 17. As expected, everyone involved in this exercise anticipated premium prices. Because growers had not recorded their input costs, they were unable to determine the actual cost of production. Therefore, a quick research on the prevailing market prices of local potatoes was done and found it was averaging at Nu. 40/kg. It was then decided to fix the price of organic potatoes at Nu. 50/kg.

The potatoes were packaged in 5kg, 10 kg, and 50 kg bags to offer a better product range to different market segments and also to minimize damage during transportation. Although the initial plan was to let the group members retail the potatoes at the Organic Sales Outlet and also to explore for markets at the high end hotels; the recent potato market glut coupled with absence of farmer representative in Thimphu made wholesale was the only option.

Promotional sale in Thimphu
ParticularQty. (Kgs)Rate (Nu./kg)Amount (Nu.)
Direct sale at CFM4175020,850
Wholesale1,2733544,555
Direct sale to hotels45502,250
Total1,735 67655

The promotion was successful, in that it was very well received by the consumers and hotels. The sales doubled the next day after the airing of the promotional event on BBS television.

The hotels committed to support organic potato farming provided the producers can ensure consistency in supply and quality. They were also informed that the group would be able to supply potatoes over a period of eight months from the next season. Appropriate modalities, such as buyers and sellers meet and contract farming needs to be explored to link the producers with the main consumer groups.

However, one of the issues was the unwillingness of a group member/representative to stay back in Thimphu and sell their produce. They were banking on the government officials to do this for them. Such logistical issues however can be addressed once the market is properly established and the volume and supply season is extended in the future.

The actual cost of production needs to be calculated, though organic method of growing is not expected to escalate the price substantially. Apart from potato, other crops such as garlic that have a good potential to be grown in Gasa organically on a commercial scale needs exploration.

The government agencies will have to continue to handhold this group in establishing a foothold in the domestic market and perhaps create its own brand and gain a share in the export markets in the future.

Submitted by DAMC and Dzongkhag Agriculture Sector, Gasa

 

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